Throughout Islamic history there have been attempts to introduce bidah (innovation) invented by ignorant and deviant persons. One of these bidah is repeated intensively every year in Rabi-al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was born in the month of Rabi-al-Awwal. Most scholars agree that he was born on the 12th of Rabi-al-Awwal in the year 53 before Hijrah corresponding to 570 in the Christian calendar (CE), in the blessed city of Makkah Mukarramah. He left on his final journey on the same day, 12th of Rabi-al-Awwal in the year 11 after Hijrah (632 CE) from the city of Madinah Munawwarah.
Muslims in many parts of the world have started celebrating the birthday of the prophet, under the banner of Milad-un-Nabi (Mawlid). This practice is alien to Islam and an imitation of the Christians, who celebrate the birthday of Prophet Isa. In this article we shall first briefly look at the similarities between the bidah of Christmas and Milad respectively, and then importantly address what the Qur’ān and Hadith say about bidah.
No one knows with certainty the date of birth of Jesus Christ (Prophet Isa, peace be to him). Most countries celebrate Christmas on 25 December each year. Eastern Orthodox national churches, including those of Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Ukraine, the Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and the Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem celebrate it on 7th January. The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates it on 6th January. Other Armenian churches celebrate it on 19th January.
Celebration of birthdays is itself a pagan idea, never promoted by any of the numerous Prophets or the Books of God, including the Torah and the Bible. The disciples (hawaris) of Jesus (peace be to him) never celebrated Christmas. Early Church leaders opposed it strongly. As late as 245 CE, African Church father and philosopher Origen wrote that it was sinful even to contemplate observing Jesus’s birthday, “as though he were a King Pharaoh”. The church failed and the pagans prevailed. It was only in the 4th century after the ascension of Jesus Christ that Christmas was recognised as a regular Christian feast. With the advent of Capitalism, the old pagans got a new supporter in the form of the adman. George Bernard Shaw observed: “Christmas is forced on a reluctant nation by shopkeepers and the press.” This is how they can pretend to serve God, and make money at the same time.
Milad is a celebration, which closely resembles the Christians’ celebration of Christ’s birth (Christmas). To illustrate note: (a) decorating the mosques with lights etc; (b) inventing a new Eid: Milad-un-Nabi, a self-made Eid; (c) singing poetry in praise of the Holy Prophet (peace be to him), such songs (naat) are mostly a bundle of shirk; (d) visiting relatives and friends; (e) wearing new clothes; (f) cooking nice foods. Some even go to the extent of doing pagan rituals (using lights and incense, etc.) with the pictures of the green dome of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah Munawwarah. Such pagan rituals are no different from the practices of the idolaters. Milad-un-Nabi is very much an adoption of Christmas by the deviant Muslims.
The earliest accounts for the observance of Milad can be found in 8th century (CE) Makkah. Public celebrations of the Milad did not occur until four centuries after his death. It was originally a festival of the Shia ruling class, not attended by the common people, with the first official Milad celebrations occurring in Egypt towards the end of the 11th century (CE). The early celebrations included elements of Sufic influence, with animal sacrifices and torchlight processions along with public sermons and a feast. In original Islamic resources (Qur’ān and Hadīth), we cannot find any instruction about the celebration of birthdays or death anniversaries.
Many Companions of the Holy Prophet passed away during his life-time. His beloved wife Sayyidah Khadijah, Radi-Allahu anha, passed away in Makkah. His beloved uncle Sayyidna Hamzah, Radi-Allahu anhu was brutally slaughtered during the battle of Uhud. But the Holy Prophet, never observed their birthday or their death anniversaries, nor did he ever advise his followers to celebrate his own birthday.
Being fully aware of this human psychology, Islam has never prescribed, nor encouraged the observance of birthdays and anniversaries, and when such celebrations are observed as a part of the religion, they are totally forbidden. The Religion is Complete.
“... This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [Al-Maidah 5:3].
It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to the Muslims through the Holy Qur’ān and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. No one is allowed after it to add anything to them as a part of religion. What was not a part of religion during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, can never become part of it.
It is not permitted to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), or the birthday of any other person, because this is a matter that has been innovated in the religion. The Prophet did not do this, neither did his successors, the Rightly-Guided Khaleefahs, or others among his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), or those who followed them exactly (in faith) during the best centuries – these are the people who had the best knowledge of the Sunnah of the Prophet, who loved him the most and followed the Shariah most perfectly, better than any who came after them. The Imams (Abu Haneefah, Maalik, al-Shaafi, Ahmad, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Ibn Seereen) did not do Milad or command others to do it or say that it was good. It was not even mentioned during the first and best three centuries.
If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected. [Sahih Bukhari, Book #49, Hadith #861].
I warn you of the newly invented matters (in the religion), and every newly invented matter is Bidah, and every Bidah is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire. [Nasai].
The best talk is Allah’s Book (Qur’ān), and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. [Sahih Bukhari, Book #73, Hadith #120].
These ahadith contain a very stern warning against coming up with innovations and acting on them. Allah says in His clear Book (interpretation of the meaning):
“... So take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you. And fear Allah. for Allah is strict in Punishment....” [Al-Hashr 59:7].
“Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah. “ [Al-Ahzaab 33:21].
“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.” [Al-Nisa 4:59].
“But if they hearken not to thee, know that they only follow their own lusts: and who is more astray than one who follow his own lusts, devoid of guidance from Allah. For Allah guides not people given to wrong-doing.” [Al-Qasas 28:50].
Say “If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”. Say: “Obey Allah and His Messenger”: But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith. [Ale-Imran 3:31-32].
Christmas and Milad are not the Sunnah of both the prophets.
Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Apostle. [Sahih Bukhari, Book #55, Hadith #654].
In most Milad gatherings, the naats (poems) in the memory of the Holy Prophet, are recited, just like the Christmas carols. When these persons indulging in the naat are told an Ayat from the Qur’ān, they ask who the scholar is?; when told an Hadith they question if it is authentic. But when it comes to the naat they accept it completely and blindly, never even wondering who wrote the naat or what its wording imply. It is to be realised that naat is just a poetry written by Muslims and non-Muslims alike and its wording tend to have element of shirk in it.
Some of them think that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) actually attends the Milad gatherings, so they stand up to greet and welcome him. This is a serious falsehood and a form of gross ignorance. The Messenger of Allah will not come out of his grave, or contact anybody, or attend any gatherings. He will remain in his grave until the Day of Resurrection, and his soul is in the highest Illiyoon (in Paradise), with his Lord in the abode of honour: “After that, surely, you will die. Then (again), surely, you will be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection.” [Al-Muminoon 23:15-16].
I would advise my Muslim brothers and sisters to avoid and condemn this innovation called Milad-un-Nabi and do not take any risks, as innovations would deprive one from the pond Kauthar:
“I am your predecessor at the Lake-Fount (Kauthar) and some men among you will be brought to me, and when I will try to hand them some water, they will be pulled away from me by force whereupon I will say, ‘O Lord, my companions!’ Then the Almighty will say, ‘You do not know what they did after you left, they introduced new things into the religion after you.’ [Sahih Bukhari, Book #88, Hadith #173].
We ask Allah to help us and all the Muslims to understand His religion and adhere to it, to bless us all by making us follow the Sunnah, and to protect us from bidah, for He is the Most Kind and Generous. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad, and his family and companions.
[SAMEEN AHMED KHAN teaches at Engineering Department, Salalah College of Technology (SCOT), Salalah, Sultanate of Oman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]